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Sunday, October 20
Updated: October 21, 12:23 PM ET
Millen apologizes for comment about player

Associated Press

DETROIT -- Detroit Lions president Matt Millen apologized Sunday for calling one of his players a "devout coward.''

Millen, speaking after Detroit beat the Chicago Bears 23-20 in overtime, said he was "completely wrong'' for making the comments about an unidentified player Thursday on Mike Ditka's Chicago radio show.

"I knew it was a mistake about a nanosecond after the words came out of my mouth,'' Millen said. "It was careless and I've learned a lesson. It was also wrong -- you can't be a coward and play in the National Football League.''

Despite the potential distraction, the Lions were able to beat the Bears, which didn't surprise coach Marty Mornhinweg or his players.

"This team has proven all season that it is a rock,'' Mornhinweg said. "It has been amazing. They just will not allow anything to distract them -- no matter if it comes from inside or outside the organization. They just continue to put forth a tremendous effort each and every week.''

Todd Lyght, a 12-year veteran and one of the few Lions with a Super Bowl ring from his days with the Rams, felt Millen's comments actually helped the team.

"I just think it made the team bond,'' he said. "When you call one of us out, you call all of us out.''

Millen did not identify the player he was talking about. He said he had spoken to the player about his concerns in the past, but has not spoken to him since the radio show.

"I will talk to him, but I have not done it yet,'' Millen said. "Marty and I decided that we would wait until after this game, because we didn't want our team focusing on anything but the Bears. I will also address the entire team at that point.''

Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr. expressed his disappointment over Millen's comments before the game.

"I'm sure in retrospect that he regrets saying it,'' Ford said. "It sounded like jock talk -- the linebacker talking to the tough Ditka guy and making jokes. It was kind of locker room talk, and I don't think there was any malice.''

Ford will meet with Millen in the next few days to discuss the situation.

"I don't think it will hurt his abilities to do his job, but only time will tell,'' he said. "I've talked to him briefly, but I really want to go in depth about how he feels about everything.''

Millen, though, thinks it will certainly hurt him.

"How could it not?'' he asked. "You are always going to lose some credibility when you do something like this. The only way I can get it back is by being a consistent person and making sure that my players know that this was in the inconsistency.''

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